Pune: Robin Uthappa made a mockery of Rising Pune Supergiant's bowling attack to anchor Kolkata Knight Riders closer towards a play-off berth with a convincing seven wicket win in an IPL match, here tonight.
The India discard right-hander struck a match-winning 87 off just 47 balls balls and was ably supported by skipper Gautam Gambhir, who made 62 off 46 deliveries, as two-time champions KRR regained their spot in top of the standings with six wins from eight games.
While Uthappa decorated his knock with seven boundaries and six hits over the fence, Gambhir innings was laced with six fours and one six. The duo stitched 158 runs off just 85 balls for the second wicket to help KKR chase down the 183-run target with 11 balls to spare.
Earlier, Steven Smith led from the front with an unbeaten 51 to lift Pune to a challenging 182 for five. Smith's half-century came off 37 balls with the help of four boundaries and a six.
Besides Smith, Ajinkya Rahane (46 off 41 balls), Rahul Tripathi (38 off 23), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (23 off 11) and Daniel Christian (16 off 6) also made useful contributions for the home team. Left-arm chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav was the pick of the bowlers for KKR with figures of two for 31.
Chasing the target, Sunil Narine (15 off 9 balls) once again got KKR off to a brisk start before he was run out in the third over. Then Uthappa and Gambhir joined hands and took control off the chase with a bit of luck on their favour.
Uthappa was lucky to have survived a close LBW call when he was yet to open his account and later when Jaydev Unadkat made a mess of a chance at deep midwicket off Imran Tahir's bowling with the batsman on 12.
The stylish right-hander grabbed the opportunities with both hands and thereafter opened his arms to struck boundaries and sixes at will. Uthpappa did not spare a single Pune bowler with young Washington Sundar and Unadkat facing the maximum wrath. Uthappa brought up his half-century in just 26 balls in the 11th over.
Gambhir, on the other hand, was content to play one and twos with occasional boundaries in between. Gambhir too got a life at the personal score of 32, dropped by Sundar off Daniel Christian's bowling. The duo, however, could not finish off the chase as both departed while trying to get over the line as quickly as possible but not before doing the job for their side. Earlier sent into bat, Pune made a brisk start, courtesy opener Tripathi's aggressive strokeplay.
Tripathi was at his aggressive best while his experienced partner Rahane played the second fiddle. Tripahi went about his shots and luck favoured him as he got two reprieves -- first an outside in the fifth delivery of the innings which went just over wicketkeeper Uthappa's reach and then Yusuf Pathan spilled a chance at long-on in the seventh over while running backwards.
During his stay at the crease Triptahi dealt mainly in boundaries and struck Narine (1/34) for three boundaries to pick up 15 runs in the sixth over.
However, Triptahi's luck ran out shortly as he under-edged a Piyush Chawla (1/36) googly on to his stumps soon. Tripathi's dismissal hardly had any effect on Pune Supergiant's scoring rate as Rahane and skipper Smith struck a boundary each in every over thereafter.
But Rahane fell four runs short of his second IPL 10 fifty when he was stumped by Uthappa off Narine's bowling. Rahane's wicket brought in Dhoni who made his intentions clear from the onset.
Dhoni struck Chawla to the midwicket boundary in the third ball of the 15th over and then followed it up with a huge hit over long-off boundary off the next ball. Dhoni continued his onslaught and clobbered Kuldeep Yadav for another six in the next over.
But a brilliant 18th over from Kuldeep Yadav and some fine glove work by Uthappa derailed Pune Supergiant's surge. Kuldeep Yadav foxed Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary with two beautiful googlies and Uthappa was quick to whip off the bails to dismiss the batsmen.
Just when it seemed KKR had managed to pull things back, Smith and Christian stepped on the accelerator and accumulated 30 runs off the last two overs, that included consecutive sixes by the latter off Chris Woakes, to take Pune beyond the 180-run mark.
Rising Pune Supergiant: A. Rahane st Uthappa b Narine 46, R. Tripathi b Chawla 38, S. Smith (not out) 51, MS Dhoni st Uthappa b Kuldeep Yadav 23, M. Tiwary st Uthappa b Kuldeep Yadav 1, D. Christian c Pandey b Yadav 16. Extras (lb-1, w-6) 7. Total (for five wickets in 20 overs) 182.
FoW: 1-65, 2-112, 3-148, 4-150, 5-182.
Bowling: Yadav 3-0-28-1, Woakes 3-0-38-0, Narine 4-0-34-1, Grandhomme 2-0-14-0, Chawla 4-0-36-1, Kuldeep 4-0-31-2.
Kolkata Knight Riders: S. Narine run out (Thakur/Dhoni) 16, G. Gambhir c Thakur b Christian 62, R. Uthappa c Tripathi b Unadkat 87, D. Bravo not out 6, M. Pandey not out 0. Extras (lb-4, w-9) 13. Total (3 wickets; 18.1 overs) 184
FoW: 1-20, 2-178, 3-179,
Bowling: J. Unadkat 3-0-26-1, S. Thakur 3.1-0-31-0, Washington Sundar 3-0-32-0, D. Christian 4-0-31-1, Imran Tahir 4-0-48-0, R. Tripathi 1-0-12-0....